Doggie Doctoring

cutcaster-photo-100504107-Dog-at-veterinarianAh, the joys of responsible pet ownership. I’m the mother of two boys, yet nothing prepared me for the trials and tribulations of raising a dog. Or two. I changed enough diapers, wiped enough bottoms and got peed on accidentally enough times to make me think I’d be prepared for whatever I might find myself doing with and to an animal, but really, not so much.

We had poodles when I was growing up, fairly small dogs with short hair and manageable size poop. The fact that they only went in the house on newspaper perpetually yellowed and littered with brown nuggets is a topic for another day. That experience somewhat soured me on the idea of owning a dog as an adult, so no matter how much the kids begged me for one, I wouldn’t give in.

Then one day, which happens a lot to me, by the way (see Fear of Flying) my adamant stand against dog ownership vanished and I decided I was ready for a puppy. I was 43, my birthday was coming up, and really, it was all about me for a change. I wanted a tiny dog, nothing that would knock me down or slobber huge quantities of drool all over my designer jeans. Something manageable, cute, lightweight, that I could lift and carry around with me at will. The boys were less than enthusiastic, but I was determined. I wanted a Yorkshire Terrier. They didn’t shed, were happy-go-lucky and cute. I wanted cute.

Baby Son and I made the rounds of breeders, ended up buying one from a nice lady right here in town, and so it began. We were huge Angels fans at the time, and I loved Troy Percival, our ace closer, so we welcomed little Percy into our lives with open arms.  Knowing full well that if I didn’t want to breed him or find out he accidentally knocked up some little chihuahua around the corner, I’d have to offer up his little marbles to the veterinary vasectomeer, I sucked it up and took him in. He was young, I told myself, he really hadn’t been attached to them for all that long, he’d get lots of TLC afterwards and he’d never know what hit him till, well, maybe one day if and when he met a studly Great Dane.  Anyway, we all survived that episode, but unbeknownst to me, my doggie doctoring had only just begun.

Percy was the love of my life, and a psychotic bundle of perpetual energy who developed skin allergies and an aversion to other dogs and anyone who came within a 2-mile radius of me rather quickly. I’d done a lot of things when my kids were little and sick, but having to inject that tiny dog every day for almost 3 weeks to determine what he might be allergic to was one of the things I’d never believe I could do until I had to.  His skin would itch, he’d scratch, it would scab and bleed, and we spent a fair amount of time at the vet’s office. I rubbed him down with special lotions, used hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner on him every week, kept his coat short, well brushed and fluffy, but he was constantly on cortisone and steroid medication for his condition. Still, I wouldn’t trade my time with him for anything on earth, and when I had to put him down in 2008 after they discovered a cyst on his brain, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I was living alone by then, and I swore I’d never get another dog. That lasted all of a few weeks, and then I got Cooper. From a fabulous breeder in Michigan, who shipped him out on American Airlines at 8 weeks old. Almost totally crate trained, with 2/3 of his shots, and BEST PART? Minus the boys. Male dogs come neutered, thank the Lord for small miracles.

Cooper’s a first generation Puggle- his mom is a beagle and his dad is a pug. Puggles have short, coarse hair and a curly tail.  Some of them, like Cooper, have the Pug’s underbite, which makes for some pretty funny facial expressions most of the time, and he is the sweetest, happiest non drooly bigger dog on the face of the earth.  For sure. Cooper has some skin itching issues also, so he needs some cortisone shots every now and again, along with a Zyrtec wrapped in American cheese, but for the most part he’s maintenance free, and a lover. Which is why, a year ago, I decided it would be a good idea if I got a little sister for him from the same breeder.

Yikes. Simone is adorable, but she had even more energy than Cooper did as a puppy, and she chewed everything in sight. She was almost 12 weeks when I got her, and WORST PART? Girl puppies come with all their parts, which have to be scooped out of them before they do their little girl becomes a woman thing for the first time. That’s major surgery, involving staples and plastic cones on their head, then for Simone, redone staples and sedatives. It’s hard to keep a good girl down.

Also, Cooper didn’t exactly love her, like I thought he would. She likes to chew his ears, run after him, and entice him to play when he wants to sleep. Welcome to the world of Mars vs. Venus girlfriend.

But, a year and a half  later, things have actually calmed down some, and aside from the fact that Simone now itches, scratches and takes cheesy Zyrtec also, I’m thinking I’m doing okay. They both got their rabies vaccinations last week, look Ma, no fleas, they’ve adjusted well to their lack of parts, and probably could enjoy some worry-free hanky-panky (if I wasn’t around to see it) if they wanted to. Life was great, until I noticed Cooper scooting his butt along my bedroom carpet. WTF? What are you doing that for? Who do I call? No one peeps, I just Google it.  C’mon, isn’t that what everyone does?

Too much information is not always a good thing. Turns out #1 reason for that activity has something to do with anal sacs. Holy crap, I want nothing to do with this. Isn’t that something they do when they give the dogs a bath? Every few months when I take them for their daily romp at the Bone Adventure? Run wild and free for 8 hours with your doggie friends, then get a nice bath and your anal sacs expressed? That was my understanding anyway.

Ohhhh noooo. This is what they tell me when I call. They just get a bath. You have to ask for that other service. Ask for it? Why would I ask for it? How would I know to ask for it? So let me get this straight. If I’ve never asked for it, and you’re the only ones who would do this procedure, my dogs have never experienced this special service? Cooper is 4. Lord have mercy, I’m lucky he wasn’t wiping his ass on my pillow. Oh, some dogs, especially the smaller ones, do it themselves she tells me, so it may not be as big of a problem as it seems. Do it themselves? How? Where? This conversation is going over the falls in a barrel rather quickly now. Okay, never mind, thank you, I’m calling Petsmart. Which I did on Friday. Scheduled them both on Saturday for the “express” bath. The girl was very understanding and assured me they’d be taken care of. “We’ll call you in about 4 hours to come pick them up.”

Simone was fine, Cooper not so much. The very nice young lady told me she kinda couldn’t find his sacs and maybe I should call the vet in the morning. I’m not even going to relay the rest of that conversation. They give you a groomer’s report card at Petsmart, and when I got home, the note on Cooper’s said: “Cooper’s anal glands were either express on his own or they are compacted. ♥ Shelby” Compacted woulda been so much better than impacted, although luckily,  for all concerned, his weren’t. Took him to the vet this morning, and twenty minutes and $37 (more) later, the veterinary tech was able to milk the crap out of my sweet boy.

Doggie doctoring. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

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Fear of Flying

New-York_plane_682_499948aIt appears I have the traveling bug.  I want to go to some places I’ve already been, places I haven’t been to yet, near and far, alone or together, but somewhere, anywhere I can relax and explore. Pack a bag, hop a plane and be gone.

Lots of people do that everyday, but for me it’s kind of a new feeling because I used to be scared to death to fly. It wasn’t so much about a smashing into the ground, splattered into a million pieces kind of thing (although that definitely was a consideration) as much as it was, I think, about floating in an area that seemed (because it was) eons from the rest of the world in a pressurized cabin that rocked and rolled along with a very annoying humming noise for the majority of the flight. I was never really afraid during takeoff, and I loved, loved landing. The closer we got to the ground the better I felt, and I’m eternally grateful that the runway was never shorter than the length of the taxiing.

One of my favorite movies is “French Kiss”,  primarily because I love Meg Ryan, even though it appears she’s been kidnapped by aliens and vanished off the face of the earth, but also because I love the notion that she overcame her deathly fear of flying to cross the continental divide in a misguided attempt to snatch her fiance from the arms of the woman he left her for and was now happily banging in France.  Her attempt at those airline classes intending to show people how irrational their flying phobia is was a dismal failure, so Kate just sucked it up and got on the plane, determined to see it through because she had no other choice. Once  on board, she meets Luc (aka Kevin Kline) and their subsequent conversation describes my former feelings to a tee.

Luc: “What do you think, the plane is going to crash and we are all on the ground in a thousand pieces dead? I promise you, if it happens, you won’t feel a thing.”

Kate: “You’re French, aren’t you?”

Luc: “I am curious, how did you get around before, or do you just stay at home, curled up with the windows down?”

Kate: “I get around as nature intended: in a car.”

Aside from trips to Hawaii or France, which I think would be difficult, not to mention expensive in terms of gas, I just figured I’d see the good old US of A (maybe Canada and Mexico too, I think you can take like a year-long road trip there) and forget anywhere else that required high-powered takeoffs and the unfurling of landing gear.  I was in good company, too. Even big, burly John Madden went everywhere in a bus.

I wasn’t always afraid to fly. I grew up in New York, and I was in a relationship in high school with a guy who went off to college a short plane ride away. Not a 747 plane ride away either. A small, little puddle jumper kind of plane. Maybe the romantic notion of a weekend together cancelled out any thoughts of death I may have had brewing subconsciously, I don’t know, but I flew. Fairly often. Then I moved to California, and because my family was still back east, I flew back there at least once a year to see them.

I had one really scary flight once. My fiance and my future mother-in-law were flying home for an engagement party my parents were throwing for us in New York. Apparently there was terrible weather the pilot wasn’t aware of (really, no one else flying through Armageddon a few hours before had radioed that maybe we’d want to bend over and kiss our asses goodbye? Oh wait, no way to do that anyway, since the glow-in-the-dark picture of the buckled together seat belt was still on) and the flight suddenly developed into something like one of those monstrous roller coaster rides at one of the country’s top amusement parks. Anyway, the flight was a stopover, we landed, took off again, made it quietly and safely to New York and I still flew again after that.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery in the late fall of 1990, I flew back to be with him. Then in May of 1993 when my brother graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and again a month later when my dad passed away. The following year my husband, kids, sister, brother and nephew flew to Hawaii to vacation together in the one place my dad had always wanted to go and never made it to.  It was a wonderful vacation and I was glad we did it, and you’d think maybe that was a lesson I would learn something from, but the truth was that it was a white knuckler flight for me and I remember thinking I had had enough.

I decided I wouldn’t fly again. It just wasn’t worth it to me to tempt the hands of fate in a vehicle piloted by someone I had never had the pleasure of actually meeting and getting to know before we spent 5 or more hours together packed like sardines with a hundred or more strangers in a giant metal container with wings and tiny retractable wheels. I missed weddings, family gatherings, high school reunions and fabulous vacation spots, and I disappointed more than my fair share of friends and relations, but it was what it was.

Fear is a funny thing. It protects you by not allowing you to risk anything, but it also prevents you from experiencing some of the most incredible places and people life has to offer.  I was grounded for many years, and then one day, 50 and single, I just decided it was time to spread MY wings and fly.  I wish I could help anyone else who may have a flying phobia by giving you all sorts of tips on how I did it, but I can’t.  I just realized that life was short and meant to be lived, and that when my number was up, it was up, no matter where I might happen to be. Plane, train or automobile. Some things are just out of our control, and my truth is that one day my fear of flying was just gone. As if it had never been.

The first few trips I took were short. Phoenix and Las Vegas. You’re up and down before you can figure out how to open the damn bag of peanuts they give you.  I had an iPod by then too, so a headset and music definitely helped with the humming noise and the friendly conversationalist sitting next to me. Then I flew to South Beach with my kids for my nephew’s wedding, and I knew I was on my way.

The turning point for me was the first cross country trip I made solo in May of 2009. My aunt and uncle owned a fabulous house in Hoboken, NJ and I wanted to see them, their house, and the new New York City. You know, the cleaned up, safer, vibrant, exciting, throw your hat in the air Mary Tyler Moore style Manhattan.  I know that was Minneapolis, I just liked the descriptive visual. Broadway, cute little boutique hotel for one night, Fifth Avenue, the works.

Not wanting to waste a day flying, I opted for the red eye on JetBlue out of Long Beach to JFK.  I drove myself to the airport, parked in the long-term lot, unloaded my 100 lb. suitcase (which I ultimately had to pay extra for, both ways)  out of the back of the car and onto the shuttle they take you to the terminal in, and headed straight for the bar. It was a great flight and that trip allowed me to do something I’d only been hoping for and wanted to do for a long time.  Besides the flying.

I’ve been back and forth many more times to Vegas and Phoenix, to Santa Rosa a few times, and I’m headed to Florida in May to see my mom, then to New York in July for my 40th high school reunion.  Someday I’ll get to Nashville, New Orleans, France and Italy.  Look at me, I’m flying.